Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

Sneak Peak

Better Homes and Gardens is teaming up with the American Public Gardens Association to offer free admission to dozens of public gardens this Friday, May, 11. Just go to the bhg.com website to get a voucher for free admission to one of dozens of participating public gardens around the country. And if you’re in the Des Moines area on Friday, be sure to stop by the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden from noon until 4 p.m. to see what’s in bloom and to get great landscaping ideas. If you can’t make it this week, regular summer visitation hours are from noon until 2:00 p.m. every Friday.

Here’s a preview of what you’ll be able to see in the Test Garden this week.

The rose garden is approaching peak bloom, several weeks ahead of schedule.

The Test Garden shed serves as tool storage and work center for the garden.

If you get tired of strolling through the garden, you can rest on a bench shaded by a pergola that supports a 'William Baffin' climbing rose.

Blooming baptisias dominate the prairie garden this week.

The shade walk features blue forget-me-nots, hostas, coralbells, boxwoods, and Itoh hybrid peonies.

Succulents are hot. And for good reason. They take almost no maintenance, and they’re gorgeous! The images in today’s post are from a recent photo shoot on planting succulent container gardens, which will appear in an upcoming book.

I love the color and texture combinations in the mix at left, which includes a blooming Sedum cauticola Cola Cola, pink-tipped Violet Queen echeveria, purple-edged Gremlin kalanchoe, purple-striped Echeveria nodulosa, Aloe dorotheae Sunset, and Jitters jade plant.

Scroll down to see several other combinations that we shot that day. Which is your favorite? I have a hard time choosing just one.

A trio of succulent containers, including Aloe vera in the blue crate, echeveria in the round brown pot, and various cacti and Sedum nussbaumerianum in a square brown container.

A resin fountain converted into a succulent trough garden

An armillary filled with hens and chicks (Sempervivums)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the folks at Bailey Nurseries in Minnesota. Perhaps best known for being the company behind Endless Summer hydrangeas, Bailey is a large wholesale company that does virtually everything big.

It’s amazing going to their growing fields and seeing thousands of plants in blocks, ready to be shipped off to garden centers around the country. Below is a block of gorgeous Endless Summer hydrangeas in their prime. They extend almost as far as the eye can see — and this is just one section. There are other sections like this of just about every variety they sell, including their roses. A block of hundreds of roses is breathtaking!


I also had the great luck to see some newer varieties on the market — again, in their prime. Here’s ‘Pink Double Delight’ coneflower (which I love; it’s a fantastic performer in my garden!) — again this isn’t a planted bed, these are all individual pots.


The Bailey Nurseries staff also let me see their gorgeous display gardens where they test out varieties before they sell them. Instead of planting everything in organized rows, though, the company let their staff have a little fun with garden design and created several acres of lush plantings. It was a feast to the eyes!

finishedPondWe’re working on a new Better Homes and Gardens water gardening book, due out in December of this year. The book will be one in a new series of BHG garden books launched this last year.

One of the projects for the book is taking shape in my backyard. We spent several days digging, (see the photo of the “pit” below) and several days photographing the step-by-step process of how to construct this formal water garden. Last evening I planted some flowers around the perimeter. We’ll photograph the water garden again in July when the water garden plants have filled in a bit more, the annuals are blooming, and the water lilies are in their full glory.


Doug and I arose early Wednesday morning eager to get on the road and see more great new plant varieties. Our first stop was in Lompoc — UK plant breeding company Floranova and its exceptionally cool brand of vegetables, Vegetalis. It was here we got to see such plants as beautifully variegated ‘Field of Dreams’ corn, adorable ‘Whispers’ nicotiana, and sweet little Royale salpiglossis.

And one of the coolest thing is that Floranova set up displays in their greenhouse that looked like planting beds (very nice ones at that!) and they a fantastic job of mixing vegetables and herbs right in with their flowering annuals. Floranova even had a movie-set-style house facade in their greenhouse to help show off landscaping ideas with their products.

'Field of Dreams' corn on the ends of this bed with 'Whispers' nicotiana running in a line down the middle. Great plants!

Look at how easy it is to mix veggies with your flowers in a home landscape setting!

After taking in the sights at Floranova, it was time to jump back in the car and we drove 50 miles south to Santa Barabara where, at Imagination Canyon Greenhouses, we were able to meet with three companies in one stop. The first was European plant breeder GGG, a company which I’d love to see more of their plant varieties around the US. One standout product was Velox Pink — an unusual, mildew-resistant cross between annual phlox and verbena.

Also on board was Skagit Gardens from the Pacific Northwest. A great company that supplies many fine perennials to retail garden centers across the country, one of its stellar offerings was the Gold Collection of shade-loving, deer- and rabbit-resistant, drought-tolerant hellebores. Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ was also a fun one!

Next up was Florist De Kwakel, a Dutch company that almost exclusively breeds gerbera daisies. They have such interesting varieties, including ‘Midi Bicolour Double’, ‘Patio Everglades’, and the semi-hardy Garvinea series.

Plus we got to see what’s new in the world of plant tags from the John Henry company and snack on delicious chocolate croissants.

It was back in the car…and another 20 miles later we hit gorgeous Island View Nursery, where we had the opportunity to meet with wonderful folks from three more companies.

The first was Plant Haven, a company that helps bring some of the coolest plant varieties around to the market. You’re probably familiar with a lot of the plants they’ve handled — Black Scallop ajuga‘Fanfare’ gaillardia, and new-for-2011 ‘Ruby Falls’ redbud.

But this time they were showing off a ton of outstanding dianthus, including the Dessert series, the Star series, and more. I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful it smelled in there!!

In greenhouse right next to Plant Haven, we found Hort Couture — a group of plants you’ll only find at finer retail garden centers. They had so many topnotch varieties — some stellar calibrachoas, lobelias, petunias, coleus…and the list goes on!!

With them was wonderful European plant breeder Westhoff, known for their lobelias, verbenas, and calibrachoa. How can you not fall in love with a variety like ‘Superstar’ lobelia, double Roccoco Peach verbena, or Estrella Voodoo Star verbena?

Then it was off to Ball Horticultural, where afterward, all we could say was “wow!” They had a ton of new varieties, including ‘Wasabi’ coleus that really caught Doug’s eye last month when he was at Costa Farms. One of my favorite new varieties for next year is the Archangel line of angelonia (the purple, pink, and white flowers in the first picture below). The blooms are so much bigger than any other angelonia I’ve ever seen!

Not only did we see rock-star plants, but we also had a lovely visit with old friends and make some new ones. Plus, they gave us lunch and it was amazing!

Golden 'Wasabi' coleus...Wow! Especially with purple Archangel angelonia.

Did you see the first two installments? If not, check them out!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 4

Our next leg of California Spring Trials was off to a great start. Doug and I zipped from the charming little town of Marina over to Salinas, where we visited the headquarters of American Takii Seed. They’re fantastic breeders of garden plants, including two All-America Selections winners for 2011 (Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’ and Kale ‘Glamour Red’). And we saw proof that the salvia is a good plant for hummingbirds — there was already a hummer in the greenhouse drinking from the salvias when we arrived at 8.30. The Takii folks promised they didn’t stage it.

A bed of colorful snapdragons added a lot of spring color at American Takii.

Our next stop was just 10 minutes away — at the show house of Sakata Seed America. They had a dazzling facility that was full of color (and ideas). Sakata is the breeder of many garden favorites, so it was like visiting old friends like Sunpatiens, Profusion zinnias, adorable Kameleo mini gerbera daisies (so cute!), and one of my favorite plants, the SuperCal line of xPetchoa (petunia crossed with calibrachoa). Plus, we had the opportunity to visit with a couple of good friends (Hi Jeanine!) and enjoy a really fantastic lunch.

Sakata set up a cute little display to give garden centers an idea of how to add a little pizzazz!

Our bellies full, we jumped in the car and headed 136 miles south to San Luis Obisbo, where Dummen USA treated us to a stellar show at Edna Valley Vineyard. There we saw a dazzling array of new plant varieties, including new colors to the huge-flowered line of Magnum New Guinea impatiens, and new colors to the Potunia series of petunia. (Look at all of the colors they have in Potunia group!) Dummen is also the breeder of Phloxy Lady phlox, and had reprinted my recent blog post on poster next to their display of new Phloxy Lady colors!

I thought this was a great way to display hanging baskets...in this case the Potunia series from Dummen.

Our last stop of the day was Greenheart Farms (over in Arroyo Grande), known for their roses. [Though it was a challenge getting there; our GPS kept asking us to turn left on roads that didn't even exist. And while cutting through someone's pasture might have been a shortcut, I didn't think the rental car agency would appreciate it very much...] One of the standouts was the Garden Treasures line of miniature roses — they’re adorable, super hardy, and flower like crazy. The folks at Greenheart told us that because of their small stature, you shouldn’t be afraid to use them in place of some of your favorite annuals as edging plants in the garden, mixed containers, etc.

Did you hear about Day 1? And check out tales from Day 3 and Day 4!

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